Behind the Tobacco Retreat

It may be the courts, not politics, that have forced the government to lower penalties

The U.S. government has spent four years and more than $135 million building a case in federal court that cigarette makers profited over the course of a half-century by lying to the American public about the dangers of smoking and racking up generations of addicts in the process. The proposed penalty-- $130 billion--would pay for a recovery program for every cigarette addict in the U.S. for the next 25 years.

When the Justice Department abruptly changed course last week, reducing the penalty sought to $10 billion, critics cried foul, charging it was a reflection of the Administration's ties to the tobacco...

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